Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kraft Suspense Theatre; The Robrioz Ring; Robert Loggia; Julie Harris

Click here for the previous episode review.

Season #1, Episode # 27

The Robrioz Ring

Original Air Date - May 28, 1964

Setting/Time - A beach town near San Diego in the present.


Having seen this episode more than once, it is apparent that it takes more than one viewing to appreciate all of the plot layers in this story. Two individuals come together in a west coast beach town, each with their own story, their own history and their own problems. Their stories are brought together almost seamlessly by an ancient ring in ways that will be hard for the viewer to predict.

(Do not be put off by my reference to an "ancient ring." Even though this reference might cause a modern audience to think of magic, sorcery and wizards, nothing of the sort plays a role in this episode. The ring just happens to be the object at the center of the conflict.)

Mario Robrioz is a cliche'd playboy who does not work and lets women support him. He is descended from long lost Spanish royalty that settled the region centuries ago. His most prized possession is an old ring passed down through many generations from son to son. The ring is his tie to the past. His past gives him the pride that allows him to refuse work and live with a royal attitude. Upon returning from a trip, he discovers that his mother has pawned the ring. Enraged, he spends the episode trying to get it back.

Lucy Bram is a spinster school teacher from Philadelphia vacationing on the west coast with two friends. She happens to buy the ring at the pawn shop just as Mario arrives.

Lucy's role is somewhat confusing at first. While Julie Harris is very attractive, she is called upon to play Hollywood's version of a less attractive female. Despite her obvious attractiveness, the role is that of a spinster. So the story uses various devices to convince the viewer that she is the least attractive of her group (clothing, shyness, more outgoing friends, etc.). (Hollywood would never actually cast an unattractive woman as a romantic lead.) This characterization is important because, as the spinster, she is the right woman in the right place to turn Mario's task into a romantic nightmare.

Mario uses romance as a ruse to get close to the women over the next few days. He fixes their flat tire, acts as tour guide, etc. Mario's plan works only too well - Lucy falls for Mario, but Mario also falls for Lucy. That is the point where the proverbial hijinks begin. Lucy will not admit to her friends that she is in love with Mario. When their friends catch them together, she must pretend that Mario's advances are unwanted - thus enraging Mario.

Lucy has two reasons for pretending that there is no affair:

  • The pair really have nothing in common. She is not going to throw away her schoolteacher/ spinster life to settle down with a somewhat crude playboy that does not work for a living.

  • Lucy is afraid that no one would believe that a man would be interested in her. She is taking the easy way out instead of trying to convince her friends of a scandalous truth.
Lucy suffers pain and embarrassment - pain at having to give up Mario and embarrassment for having been with him in the first place. These emotions are explored sympathetically (but are not beaten to death). Lucy is trapped by her past and by who she is. [Mario would later summarize their differences by saying (in one of his calmer moments), "We are who we are." ] But while Lucy is trapped by her past, Mario is predictably enraged by it - even to the point of forgetting (for the moment) his goal of recovering the ring. Mario is angered not at rejection (for he is not really rejected) but at being hidden. Mario is angry because Lucy is embarrassed.

This point is where the conflict is most pronounced. Through a series of encounters with Mario (and as her friends console her) we see Lucy suffer from her own internal conflict about what to do. She also is forced to deal with Mario's anger. At this point, neither Lucy's nor Mario's behavior is exemplary (this is the point where I became vague so as to avoid plot spoilers).

The conflict is presented subtly (despite Mario's outbursts). A first-time viewer might mistake the drama as an abusive suitor vs. a reluctant woman. But upon reflection and consideration of all of the dialogue it becomes obvious that the relationship is very complicated. Just as Lucy is struggling with new and confusing experiences, Mario is coming to grips with his own life. We see him slowly realize that this affair is about more than just the ring and more than merely his relationship with this woman. He, too, has been trapped by his past.

As with prior episodes, I appreciate this episode much more by comparing it to the Hitchcock episodes of that era. Had this story aired on Hitchcock, the ring would have possessed some magical power that would have dominated the plot and resolved the climax. Instead, the characters' own decisions dominated the plot, while the ring slowly got pushed to the background. Rather than take the easy way out by resolving the plot with magic or spirits, the story forced the characters to face their own identities and their own pasts. What the story lacked in cleverness, it made up for in thoughtfulness.

The music score for this episode is unique among KST episode, unlike many of the scores that were repeated in at least three or four episodes.

This episode featured numerous beach scenes, including shots of naval ships near San Diego. The outdoor scenery made the episode more realistic.


Robert Loggia played Mario. He has been a fixture in movies and television for more than 50 years, including guest appearances on Hitchcock and Big Valley, starring roles on short lived TV series and films now in post-production. This episode was Loggia's first of two KST appearances.

Julie Harris plays Lucy. She has been active for more than sixty years. She starred with James Dean in East of Eden in 1955. She was a regular on Knots Landing in the 1980's. She was honored at Kennedy Center in 2005.

Julie Adams played one of Lucy's traveling companions. This was the first of her two KST episodes. She has acted for roughly sixty years and remains active in lesser roles today. She was featured in recurring roles in The Jimmy Stewart Show, Perry Mason, Murder She Wrote and others (plus numerous one-time guest roles).

Virginia Gregg played the other travelling companion whose wisdom and experience helped Lucy during and after her encounters with Mario. Her voice was a fixture on radio for many years. She received repeat guest roles on shows such as Gunsmoke, Dragnet, Hitchcock, Twilight Zone and others. One of her now most noted roles was uncredited at the time, when she played the voice of Norman Bates' mother in Psycho (and both sequels).


"Robrioz Ring" was a good episode for observing classic cars. The traveling ladies drove a light blue, convertible 1964 Ford Galaxie, which model was usually reserved for police cars in shows of that era. Numerous other cars appeared on the street during driving or walking scenes, including a 1960 Chevy, a Corvair, a 1959 Cadillac, an early 1960's Volkswagen Beetle, a Thunderbird and a 1961 or 1962 Buick Skylark (and others). The viewer can also see the same 1963 Chrysler as a background vehicle in numerous scenes. This collection of cars would today make for a popular car show. But in TV of the 1960's, they were merely background that you would miss if you blinked.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Watchman; Kraft Suspense Theatre; Telly Savalas; Jack Warden; Spanish Civil War; Sydney Pollack; David Rayfiel; Ezekiel

Click here for the previous episode review.

Season #1, Episode #26

The Watchman

Original Air Date - May 14, 1964

Setting/Time - The present in New York City and Spain - plus flashbacks to mid/late-1930's Spain and late 1930's New York City.


"The Watchman" is the story of a writer/journalist and his uneasy relationship with a gangster/warlord over nearly three decades.

The conflict in this story is more subtle than in most fiction. The main conflict exists throughout the story between the writer and the warlord - although that conflict always lurks just beneath the surface.

Jack Warden plays the writer who meets a warlord/revolutionary (Telly Savalas) during the Spanish Civil War. Warden is alternately indignant toward Savalas and enabling of Savalas during the coming years. We watch Savalas execute prisoners and petty criminals without trial (and other warlord type activity) in the mountains of Spain. Savalas ends up in New York after the war and becomes involved in organized crime. Warden helps him by covering up for Savalas' crimes. The episode is careful to depict Warden as reluctant and indignant even while helping Savalas.

Most of the story is told through flashbacks as Warden discusses this history with his analyst in present day New York. Savalas has long ago been deported back to Spain. Warden discusses this matter with his analyst now because Savalas has summoned Warden to Spain for an unknown reason. Warden is once again reluctant and indignant.

The story becomes complicated when Warden reveals that he has held romantic feelings for Savalas' wife since Savalas' days in New York City. These feelings, while generally unspoken, have been known both to Warden and the wife for years. The viewer follows the story as Warden flies to Spain to confront his old benefactor/nemesis. The conflicts and complications come to the surface through a series of conversations/confrontations leading to the climax.

The flashback method of telling the story works in this episode. The story begins in modern New York with the "summons" upon Jack Warden. From there, the mystery behind the summons emerges gradually through Warden's flashbacks as he tells the history to his analyst.

The Spanish Civil War remained a favorite subject of writers (fiction and otherwise) for decades. Few subjects were so romanticized. That war has since been replaced as a favorite topic by Vietnam.

I believe the title comes from Ezekiel 33:6. That Bible passage establishes that a "Watchman" shall blow the trumpet as a warning when danger threatens the Israelites. If the Watchman fails to blow the trumpet, he shall be responsible for any deaths that follow. In this episode, Warden's character is torn and disturbed by his own belief that he has been compromised by his friendship with Savalas over the years. The viewer can judge for himself whether Warden is held accountable for failing to blow the trumpet.

The portion of the storyline relating to Savalas' wife tends to confuse the "Watchman/Ezekiel" theme. Warden never acts on his romantic interest, but that storyline is the only part of the plot that involves consequences. (Pardon my vagueness, but I am trying to avoid plot spoilers).


This episode marked an early instance of collaboration between director Sydney Pollack and writer David Rayfiel, which collaboration lead to a string of successful movies over the next three decades, including The Way We Were (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975), The Firm (1993)("screenplay" credit for Rayfiel) and Sabrina (1995). Even though this future collaboration would tend to make this episode somewhat of an historical artifact for movie fans, this episodes lingers in obscurity.

Quote of the episode:

Warden: You've outgrown the truth.
Savalas: It changes.
Warden: No, only what we see and tell of it.


A Rolls Royce was used at one point toward the end of the episode. Aside from this scene, cars played a minor role in this episode.


Jack Warden played the title role. He enjoyed a 50 year career in many TV and movie roles, including a small role in From Here to Eternity (1953), parts in two Twilight Zone episodes and numerous additional roles. Always a well-known character actor, he achieved lasting success in 1979-1980 with major supporting roles in three hit movies - Being There, And Justice for All and Used Cars.

Telly Savalas played the mobster/revolutionary. He previously starred in "Action of the Tiger" (episode #1.16).

Victoria Shaw plays Savalas' wife. Her 25 year career saw numerous roles in well-known television programs and movies. She was married for a time to Roger Smith, star of "Knight's Gambit" (episode #1.20).

Star Trek Connection

This episode's Star Trek connection is Arthur Batanides, who played D'Amato on "That Which Survives." He acted for nearly forty years, with repeat guest appearances on shows such as Gomer Pyle, Wild Wild West and Mission: Impossible. Batanides played a police detective in this episode.